Ph.D. Music Education/Music Therapy, University of Kansas, 1999
Masters of Music in Music Therapy, Illinois State University, 1993
B.A. Music Education K-12 Cmprehensive, Glenville State College, 1989


Debra Burns specializes in music-based intervention research using mixed methodologies across the cancer treatment continuum from disease-directed treatment, survivorship and end of life. She has collaborated and consulted on several studies funded by the National Institutes of Health specializing in research methodology, determining the essential components of music interventions, designing appropriate control conditions and monitoring treatment fidelity.

Burns holds a Ph.D. in music education and music therapy from the University of Kansas, a master’s in music therapy from Illinois State University, and a Bachelor of Arts in music education from Glenville State College in West Virginia. She completed five years of postdoctoral training funded by the Walther Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health/National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Her publication record includes over 25 papers published in journals such as Journal of Music Therapy, Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, and Supportive Care in Cancer. She has been an active member of the American Music Therapy Association since 1989. Her areas of expertise are music-based intervention effectiveness research in cancer and hospice/end of life. Her research methodologies include randomized controlled trials, qualitative and mixed methods.

Professional Experience

  • Board-Certified Music Therapist #04036, 1992 - 2016

Selected Publications